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Fraternities aren’t just about beer-soaked parties and barbecues on game day.
OK, some frat guys are majoring in Budweiser. But the chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., counts raising money for good causes and volunteering in the community as core values.
In recent years, the fraternity chose a national HIV/AIDS fundraising and awareness campaign to benefit from the chapter’s annual week of philanthropic events.
But last fall, Kyle Campbell, a junior from Miami, Fla., who was serving as the fraternity’s vice president of programming, wanted to pick a local nonprofit, so brothers could actually see how they were making a difference.
So the longtime animal lover—“I’ve always had a pet, ranging from a dog to a chicken”—did a little research, and discovered that the Washington Humane Society (WHS) had two shelters nearby. His brothers enthusiastically agreed to designate WHS as their new charity.
Campbell contacted the shelter to outline his plan for a series of activities during the fraternity’s Sweetheart Week, which enlists GW students—particularly those in the Greek system—to participate and fundraise for a worthy cause.
Sweetheart Week was held in November; the goal is for participating sororities to raise the most money, and thus become the fraternity’s “sweethearts.”
Each day brought a different activity. The kickoff was Paper for Puppies— “paper” meaning cash. Eight sororities set up tables and empty jars for donations; any bill dropped into a jar counted for 100 points, while any coin was a negative point. So sororities could undercut their competition by dropping coins in their jars—either way, it raised money for the shelter. The event brought in more than $500. (The donation jars were set out at subsequent events, so that people could continue contributing.)
The second day featured a lighthearted beauty pageant (hey, it ’s still a frat), which included a contestant from each sorority; their houses paid an entrance fee for them to participate. The pageant featured an interview round, a pajama round, onstage talent, and a question round in which the women were asked about animals or WHS. The fraternity also organized a dance competition and a scavenger hunt in which items on the list related to animals—competitors had to take a picture in front of three of the various horse statues in the city, as well as bark at the statue of FDR’s dog at the FDR Memorial on the Washington Mall. Jacquie Topping, WHS’s director of marketing and communications, served as a judge for both the beauty pageant and dance competition.
After one event at GW’s student center, Darcy Levit, WHS’s director of major gifts, gave a presentation on the shelter, which about 100 people attended. One student approached Levit afterward to ask if the shelter offers summer internships. Levit gave her a card, and the girl followed up. “So I think there’s going to be an extended relationship with GW. It really opened our eyes to what our local universities can be doing with us,” Levit says.